Happily right now

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 20, 2011 11:37 PM

There are certain days when the atmosphere changes for me. I don’t know what causes it though I suspect it’s more internal than external. The day is the same as most days. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, a breeze flows through the trees and in through the windows. Sounds of the neighborhood muffle in the afternoon. A dog barks, kids ride by on their bicycles, chatting over the sound of tires on the newly paved road. Across the street, one of our neighbors saunters to the mailbox, opens it, removes her mail and snaps the box shut. When she gets back to her house, she closes the garage door. It’s chain driven and raspy. A small plane, probably on its way to Camarillo, drones above.

The digital music channel I have chosen to accompany me on this Saturday is full of vibrating steel tubes, bamboo flutes and rain. Gentle drops fall through one of the speakers. It is lovely and makes the house feel cool.

I feel serene, relaxed. My atmosphere has changed. I boil some water and make myself some hot cider. Normally, in August, it’s too hot for hot cider. Not today.

I walk out of the kitchen.

Passing by a Marilyn Littman photograph that I purchased over 20 years ago. She does white on white photography with only the barest hint of light gray. The photo I have is “Dune with Brush.” I don’t know when it was photographed but the print number is 4/250. It is framed in white with a white double matte.

Dune with Brush by Marilyn Littman

It’s haunting and soothing; it makes me feel still. And its aura of vast nothingness, rolling sand dunes against a white sky, with no humans, no creatures, makes me happy. I’m not sure why. I’m only sure of the feeling I have. It’s a feeling I like.

Hundreds of years ago, the world introduced us to the concept of fairy tales, many of whose characters lived happily ever after. The prince would sweep in at the end of a story, the details of which never really matter, and he would save the would-be princess from certain death, often with a kiss. Sometimes he’d rescue her from a tower. In one particularly famous story, all he had to do was put a slipper of the right size onto her delicate foot. She would swoon, he would feel strong and virile, and they would fade into oblivion staring lovingly into each other’s eyes.

Disney perpetuated these tales, as did and does every romantic comedy in theaters.

I’ve always thought that happily ever after is unrealistic. It’s as if the prince and princess, beauty and the beast, never had a harsh word between them, never had to fight about money, never grew old and lost that loving feeling. They never had to work and look forward to the weekend and allow themselves to enjoy life. They didn’t need to. They were forever young and strong and beautiful and in love. They were never in the moment except for the story. I always wondered if they were really happy, if they knew the honest depth of joy, a feeling often caused by nothing but reality.

I believe in happily right now. That’s what I am today. With luck, that’s what I’ll be tomorrow. I live in the moment, I celebrate the serenity of the day, this day. Perhaps I’ll be happily ever after; I hope so. But for now, I’m content, I’m happy in the present. I’m living the life I love, in this moment. Right now.

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live out loud

The purge

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 17, 2011 7:55 PM

My office is probably like many offices. I have current client folders and past client folders; I have sample products and sample gifts, samples of printed pieces, books galore, a wooden duck, two computers, one portable DVD player, an intercom system, speakers, some toys, and a phone. And that’s just on the desk. Don’t even get me started on the floor around my desk or my closet. It is an unmitigated mess. My piles have piles, which I realize is a personal problem.

I try to keep it organized. I pretty much know where everything is in order to get my hands on it quickly, if I need to. Occasionally I get to the point where I just can’t stand it anymore and I go through the accumulated mess that sits underneath one of my computers and to the left and right of my main computer, my beloved Mac. Yes, that is his formal name. It’s usually right around the time when I can no longer see the wood of the desktop. Every day after Thanksgiving while much of the world goes shopping, I have my annual “Lorin cleans her office day” in which I go through everything on the desk and the floor around the desk, throwing out barrels full of stuff no longer needed and shredding that which can’t be thrown away. I dust everything including the shelf at the back of my desk, and all of the various other pieces of furniture in the office. I even vacuum. Then I stand in the doorway and feel very proud.

But lately, doing just enough to see the top of the desk and the annual Lorin cleans day isn’t cutting it. Maybe it’s delayed spring cleaning; maybe I’ve lost that nesting feeling. But I’ve decided that a person can’t live like this any longer. When one can’t even open the doors of one’s closet in order to extract whatever is needed without worrying about the entire contents of said closet falling down on one’s head, something needs to be done.

Let me say this now. I am not nor have I ever been a hoarder.

This is not my office

Now that that’s out of the way, let me explain further. As a writer, I have many written things. Some of them by me, many by others. Those ‘by others’ are usually in hard cover and stacked nicely in the book shelf behind my desk. In the closet, which makes me nearly break out in hives when I have to go inside, there are many, many, many boxes containing things I have written throughout my career. Hell, throughout my life. I’m fairly sure the notebooks that I used to scribble my stories after I’d climbed my favorite tree in order to gain some privacy are in there. Those stories, which may go back to when I was 6, were usually about a girl named Julie. I have no idea why. Evidently when I was 6, I thought Julie was about the coolest name a girl could have. Perhaps because of The Mod Squad. Those notebooks, small enough to fit into the back pocket of my overalls, were my lifeblood. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer.

I digress.

Yesterday I had an epiphany. The skies parted and the sun shone down, angels wept with astonishment over how incredibly brilliant I was. The epiphany? I could clean out my office a little bit at a time.

I’ll pause while you, dear reader, also bask in my brilliance.

Imagine the joy. I no longer had to spend an entire day going through one or two piles; I no longer had to quiver at the very thought of prying open the dreaded closet doors. Or tackling the mess that hides – very well, I might add – behind my door. I didn’t have to put the whole room off until I had time that would never manifest. I could simply start with one small section, clean it out, and then be done for the time being. I began with three of my desk drawers. I went through everything in them and discarded most of what resided there. I had date books from 1999. Yes, I am embarrassed.

But I’ve begun the purging process. I feel elevated. I feel strong. I feel that if I do this often enough, eventually, I’ll even get to the closet.

Then again…

The great first paragraphs from "Love in the Time of Cholera"

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, August 9, 2011 8:45 PM

“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. Dr. Juvenal Urbino noticed it as soon as he entered the still darkened house where he had hurried on an urgent call to attend a case that for him had lost all urgency many years before. The Antillean refugee Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, disabled war veteran, photographer of children, and his most sympathetic opponent in chess, had escaped the torments of memory with the aromatic fumes of gold cyanide.

“He found the corpse covered with a blanket on the campaign cot where he had always slept, and beside it was the stool with the developing tray he had used to vaporize the poison. On the floor, tied to a leg of the cot, lay the body of a black Great Dane with a snow-white chest, and next to him were the crutches. At one window the splendor of dawn was just beginning to illuminate the stifling, crowded room that served as both a bedroom and laboratory, but there was enough light for him to recognize at once the authority of death. The other windows, as well as every other chink in the room, were muffled with rags or sealed with black cardboard, which increased the oppressive heaviness. A counter was crammed with jars and bottles without labels and two crumbling pewter trays under an ordinary light bulb covered with red paper. The third tray, the one for the fixative solution, was next to the body. There were old magazines and newspapers everywhere, piles of negatives on glass plates, broken furniture, but everything was kept free of dust by a diligent hand. Although the air coming through the window had purified the atmosphere, there still remained for the one who could identify it the dying embers of hapless love in the bitter almonds. Dr. Juvenal Urbino had often thought, with no premonitory intention, that this would not be a propitious place for dying in a state of grace. But in time he came to suppose that perhaps its disorder obeyed an obscure determination of Divine Providence.”

 

The great first lines of Love in the Time of Cholera by Columbian novelist Gabriel García Márquez who hypothesized that lovesickness is a literal disease, comparable to cholera. His characters suffer from love just as they would from any malady. The term cholera is cólera in Spanish, García Márquez’ native tongue, and it means human rage and ire, emotions often derived from the sickness of love. It’s an eloquent book by a nobel prize winning writer known affectionately as Gabo throughout Latin America. 

First edition: Spanish cover

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great first paragraphs

What crops up in certain circles

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 3, 2011 10:04 PM

I had some strange things happen today regarding family, and I was ranting a bit because I believe that ranting is something that everyone should do every once in a while if for no other reason than to get it out of your head and into the ether where it can be more easily managed. Bobbi asked me, in the midst of my angst overload meltdown, what I would be blogging about today since I didn’t seem to be very celebratory. She asked with love, affection and concern. I retorted: crop circles.

So without further ado, allow me to commence with a celebration of the patterned flattening of wheat, barley, rye, corn or rapeseed. These incredible occurrences have been happening for perhaps as long as hundreds of years, but mostly they’ve been capturing the attention the world – and not always in a healthy way – since the 1970s. According to the venerable Wikipedia, some 26 countries have reported cases of approximately ten thousand crop circles since the disco days with 90 percent of those in Southern England, appearing near such ancient monuments as Stonehenge and Avebury, a Neolithic henge monument, the largest stone circle in Europe. Circular coincidence?

Supposedly the crop circle phenomenon was started in 1978 by Doug Bower and Dave Chorley. To prove their point, they even demonstrated their prowess in the tall grass by making a circle in an hour. Until their revelation, made in 1991, all sorts of theories grabbed onto the minds of the common and uncommon man. Some suggested that the circles were the result of extraordinary meteorological phenomena based largely on a hypothesis posed by amateur scientist John Rand Capron in the 1880 publication of Nature. In it he stated that he had “found a field of standing wheat considerably knocked about” and “as viewed from a distance, circular spots… suggestive of some cyclonic wind action.”

That’s some wind.

There is also the paranormal belief that the circles were messages from extraterrestrial beings. ET evidently phoning home. This theory was largely proven false in the hugely disappointing M. Night Shyamalan film “Signs.” Some new agers also related the circles to Gaia, or Mother Earth, stating quite factually that the circles came from global warming and human pollution. Even animals were suspect. In 2009, the attorney general of Tasmania stated that Australian wallabies had been found creating crop circles in fields of opium poppies. No confirmation of whether they were just stopping to smell the flowers.

Historically, the Mowing-Devil made the Hartford-shire news in 1678 when Satan himself evidently mowed down someone’s crops following a dispute over harvesting. No evidence of anyone sporting horns and a tail, other than the family bull, was ever found.

The Mowing-Devil

Crop circles have been the subject of documentaries (Discovery’s Crop Circles: Mysteries of the Fields) and competitions in Berkshire, England. And artists like Rod Dickinson and John Lundberg have been creating crop circle art in the UK and around the world since the early 1990s.

I think crop circles are metaphors for the circle of life, the beauty of the earth and a celebration of the imagination. They are the personification of artists taking the world into their hands, literally, and creating visual wonders for all to see. And that’s worth a good rant any day.

A crop circle from Rod Dickinson’s Circlemakers. Can you see the face?

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live out loud

In search of happiness

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 1, 2011 10:16 PM

My friend Bobbi and I have this discussion quite often: what is happy and how is it qualified? I don’t mean happy during every minute of every day; that’s simply not normal. But overall. What does it mean to be happy, and if you’re not happy, is it possible to become happy?

It’s such an odd word, happy. It has a flat sound for what it means, unlike joyous which has a lovely, melodic note to it. Happy is to be delighted, pleased or glad. It’s characterized by pleasure and comfort; it can feel fortunate and lucky. It actually came to us from Middle English – not Middle Earth, which was decidedly unhappy – around the mid-14 century and was derived from haphazard, chance and fortune. The Greeks and Irish used it to mean luck, the Welsh to mean wise. I like it to mean contentedness.

Happiness is feeling good about work or a job. It’s about enjoying life, about embracing possibilities. Happiness can be found in spending time with friends and family. It’s a feeling that washes over a situation and a person, leaving behind a feeling that’s calm, sustained, joyous.

Everyone in the world wants to be happy, but if you’re unclear about what you’re looking for, it can be impossible to find. It’s not a particular thing, it’s a feeling, a state of being. It can be exhilarating and peaceful, short term gained from external things and inner happiness that comes from acceptance of self, of living with purpose. Inner happiness is the hardest to find and the one Bobbi and I have spent our conversations discussing because it’s not about what so many think it’s about. It doesn’t matter if one has the newest electronics or car, or all the money in the world. There’s a reason why the saying “money can’t buy happiness” exists. It’s not even about having no worries at all, or lazing around all day in front of the television, or the computer. It’s deeper than that.

What I’ve found is that happiness means waking up every morning to enjoy the day, being grateful for the opportunity to explore that day. I love loving what I do and I like to think that maybe some of it makes a difference. I find happiness in having direction, and purpose, a goal. I find happiness in the way Kevin and I live our lives, together, with laughter and yes, joy. The smallest butterfly alighting a flower can make me happy because it fills me with peace, two squirrels fighting in the trees makes me laugh because it’s real; it’s an honest existence.

I find that the truest form of happiness comes from the soul, not the mind, and it is both a constant search and the exquisite feeling of not needing to search. It comes from choice and change, of finding strength in the positive. It’s satisfaction of self rather than material goods. It is at its core about being happy. It’s not something that can be described; it’s more nebulous. It simply is and when you have it, you know it.

I have great joy in my life, not every minute, but most often. And I choose to live it out loud by celebrating the little happiness-wrapped presents that arrive every day. A cool breeze at night, a great glass of wine, a talk with a friend, a phenomenal book, a tear-stained laugh; the sound of my husband’s voice, his laugh, Justin’s ‘Hi, mom!;” the smell of my dog’s fur. A good conversation with a client, a strong paragraph of writing; Saturdays. If you look and listen and open yourself up, you can find happiness where you left it. Deep inside. That’s where I found mine and where it continues to reside.

In praise of the olive

by Lorin Michel Friday, July 29, 2011 6:50 PM

It begins life as a seed that grows into a tiny green fruit with another seed in the middle. They don’t come hollow or stuffed with pimento, nor are they pickled, sliced or diced, not at first. They’re olea europaea, olives, whose trees are native to the Mediterranean, first appearing more than 7000 years ago and becoming a tremendous source of wealth. Legend states that when the Persians set fire to Athens, the original olive tree was burnt down, but on the very day it burned, it grew again to twice its height. Perhaps because the tree had been a gift from the gods.

There is definitely mythology in these little green footballs. Olives are mentioned more than 30 times in the Bible, in both the Old and the New Testament. They’re mentioned seven times in the Quran, praised as a precious fruit. In The Odyssey, Odysseus crawls beneath two shoots of olives growing from a single stock while in the Iliad, the olive tree is used as metaphor. It appears in the mountains by a spring, notable because olives rarely thrive too far away from the sea and definitely not up a mountain slope. This gave the Greeks power, and proved that the gods were watching out for them. The Roman poet Horace described his diet as filled with olives, endives and smooth mallows. Lord Monboddo, an 18th century Scottish judge and philosopher, commented that olives were one of the preferred foods of the gods because of their perfection. After the 16th century, the olive traveled to and began to grow in Mexico, Peru, Chile and Argentina, and in the 18th century, in California. I thank the Lord, as in Monboddo.

We’re big on olives in this house, especially on Friday nights, affectionately known as Fritini. We prefer the manzanilla variety, a Spanish green cured lightly with lye then packed in salt and lactic acid brine, stuffed with pimento. When run through with a martini pick, and soaked in vodka for the appropriate amount of time, they’re quite tasty.

Of course, there is also the French variety known as picholine, also salt-brine cured with a subtle lightly salty flavor and packed with citric acid. And I’m a personal fan of the kalamata, especially on a Greek salad. The niçoise is great on pizza. There are also the Italian Liguria, ponentine, gaeta, lugano, the sevillano from California, and about 12 other types growing on about 800 million trees throughout the world.

But let’s return for a moment to the lovely green manzanilla and a number of its friends marinating in an ice cold Grey Goose martini, its pimentos smiling up from the liquid, just begging to be nibbled, chewed and swallowed.

On this last Friday in July, I give thanks to the Greeks and especially the Goddess Athena who brought olives to the tiny people below. This gift, useful for light, heat, food, medicine and perfume was chosen by Zeus as the world’s most useful invention, an invention that has also come to symbolize peace, wisdom, glory, fertility, power and purity. Athena’s original olive tree was said to be planted on the rocky hill of what is today the high city, the Acropolis.

The original olive tree on the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

In praise of Athena, and her incredibly inventive fruit, I raise a glass. Cheers!

The talent of obsessing

by Lorin Michel Thursday, July 28, 2011 9:00 PM

It’s always interesting to me when people write about the creative process. I’ve never been entirely sure that you can write about something like that. How do you qualify it? It’s like knowing where ideas come from. I read a book years and years ago that talked about how easy it was to discover the creativity that’s buried deep inside each one of us. I don’t remember it specifically discussing talent, as if talent was incidental or assumed; as if being creative was what produced talent. The book was called Dancing Corn Dogs in the Night. It was written by movie producer Don Hahn, and it listed some of the forces that drive creativity, namely balance, chaos, persistence and truth. I think he also threw in chocolate and coffee. To the list, I’d add obsession.

There is something about the creative process that nurtures and feeds obsession. If you paint, you must paint. If you draw, you must hold pencils. If you make music, you must always be composing. If you write, everything is a story, a possibility, a potential scene, a headline, an intoxicating sentence that channels Dostoyevsky, transporting the reader.

Obsession has somehow become a bad word, and in the case of Calvin Klein, an over-powering fragrance, but I don’t think it is a bad word. I think it’s a word about focus, about drive, about the relentless pursuit to make the world better through the creative process.

A word cloud of the next paragraph

The dictionary defines obsession as the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image or desire. The word’s origins, dating to around 1510, are from the Latin obsessionem, meaning a blockade or siege. It was also discussed as the hostile action of an evil spirit, rather like possession but without the body and soul invasion. That’s pretty much right on. When I’m obsessed with something, it takes over my entire being. It’s all I can think of, all I want to do. I get that way about writing, but not enough. Because it scares me. Not the obsession, but the act of writing. And yet I do it everyday. Still, to be obsessed is to open myself up, to unzip the tight emotions and influences and thoughts and ideas and let them out to play. They race from my head, down my arm, through my fingers and out onto the keys of my keyboard where they miraculously appear on a word document. But putting them out there, allowing their early release from the prison of my imagination, sets me up for failure. It puts me out there for judgment.

I believe that’s why so many people don’t pursue their creativity and don’t channel their talent. It’s scary to put yourself out there in the world for review because what if the reviews are bad? And they will be, because I’m not good enough for them to be good. And what if they are good? Then I’d be terrified that I have only one good thing in me and then what if more is expected? What if I really do have talent? What if I really don’t?

This is also obsession. The need to obsess about the possibilities while obsessing about the realities, and then wondering which is which and what is what.

No wonder so many of history’s most creative souls were insane.

I have heard that the way through this is to simply do it, which for someone who’s obsessed is actually easy. I’m terrified to write so I write every day. I write while I sleep. I write because I have no choice. I keep a pad of paper and a lighted pen on the table next to my side of the bed in case I have an idea that absolutely must be written down before it escapes my mind and through the tips of my fingers because that’s it’s usual path, and if there’s nothing at the end of my fingers to catch it, where will it go? And if it leaves, maybe that was The One.

So I obsess. I believe that anyone who dreams obsesses, anyone who possesses the myth of talent obsesses because maybe that talent is real. Oh. My. God.

And maybe it is a myth after all.

So I obsess some more, and I write for myself and I read it myself and then every day I let a little tiny bit out into the world to have others read it, and then I obsess about what they think. But having an audience of only one can be lonely. Creativity should be shared, celebrated. As should the talent of obsessing. 

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live out loud

The keys to

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 26, 2011 8:24 PM

I find keys fascinating. They have such incredible shapes, mostly round and inviting at the top and then jagged and craggy toward the ends. They’re sort of like people that way. We all start out as rolly babies, squirming and soft, full of rounded angles and curves, and then we become adults. Our heads stay round but everything else becomes sharp edges, especially our personalities. I blame curiosity. If we weren’t hopelessly curious about everything from why the sky is blue to how come Brussel sprouts make your mouth squinch up to if there’s a heaven, we wouldn’t find things out and we could stay hopelessly naïve and round. In other words, not keyed in.

In so many ways, the key to how we live can be found in the keys we carry. Kevin and I have a key rack in the shape of a motorcycle mounted just outside the garage door.  It has five hooks on it, all holding single keys on appropriate key chains. There is one for the car, one for the truck, one for the motorcycle; one with the house key and one with the key to Kevin’s studio. We don’t have a lot of locked up ideals in our lives.

Single keys work to lock something up or to unlock something else. But they are really the keys to release. Keys to the city give the recipient special access to something entirely nebulous but it sure sounds important. The keys to success seemingly provide a solution to what had otherwise seemed unattainable. I think I’ve had my hands on those keys a time or two. Sometimes they’ve fit into the keyhole; sometimes not.

The keys to my heart were first given away a long time ago, when I was in high school. I was a junior and his name was Jeff Peterson. He played football; I don’t remember what position. He had been dating a friend of mine but they broke up right around the time I broke up with my boyfriend. We commiserated, spending countless afternoons after school, hanging around the lockers. Before I knew it we were dating, and I was hopelessly in love. I don’t remember when but somehow I got the keys back and locked up my heart again until Tim, my first husband. I picked him up hitchhiking, and fell stupidly in love, but I was 18. What did I know about love? By the time I took those keys back, I was in my early 30s, though if I’m being honest, I took them back much earlier than that.

Then came my favorite husband, my beloved Kevin. I gave him the keys and I don’t want them back.

Keys, like just about everything else in history, probably originated in Egypt. Clay tablets from ancient Babylonia, some 4000 years ago, depict key-like structures, probably made of wood or stone. Then the Greeks stepped in and began using keys to lock and unlock temples, with women usually carrying large, angular bronze keys on one shoulder. Homer even speaks of the key to Odysseus’s storeroom in his literary masterpiece The Odyssey. Roman keys were technically more proficient, with finesse and elegance, becoming status symbols for those who had something to protect. They also invented the finger key, worn and used by women to lock and unlock jewelry boxes. During the 6th thru 9th centuries, Merovingian keys and Carolingian keys, shaped like religious symbols were in vogue. Keys have been a symbol of power in the United States since William Penn, the English real estate entrepreneur and eventual founder of Pennsylvania, arrived in Delaware in 1682. By this time and to this day, keys were made of various forms of metal.

There are master keys, control keys, transponder keys, double-sided and four-sided keys, paracentric keys, internal cut, Abloy, Dimple, Skeleton, Tubular and Zeiss keys, DO NOT DUPLICATE keys, restricted keys, magnetic keys and Alicia Keys. There’s also the very popular keycard, the keyboard, and the Francis Scott Key key used in a West Wing episode.

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Here’s the thing about keys, they can often be used to keep people out and lock things up. But I like to think they also open doors and unlock new possibilities. Step inside and find what you may. Perhaps a treasure, perhaps just another door, and always a way forward. That’s the key to my future. What’s the key to yours?

The evolution of Don Diego de la Vega

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 24, 2011 10:45 PM

He was first seen on August 6, 1919. No one seems to know exactly when he was born, rather he just appeared as a nobleman and master living in the then Spanish colony known as California. By most accounts, he was dashing and debonair, and somewhat lacking in passion. An odd combination. He was also a superb athlete, horseman, swordsman and marksman. He was also well educated, wealthy and cultured, and possessed extensive scientific knowledge that allowed him to build extremely advanced gadgets and machines. Wearing a flowing black Spanish cape, a flat-brimmed Gaucho hat known as a Cordobés and a black sackcloth mask over his eyes, he was cunning and foxlike, similar to the historical Andalusian bandits of the 18th and 19th centuries who ravaged rich travelers on the Spanish countryside. One of the most famous was José María Pelagio Hinojosa, or El Tempranillo. Some compared him to Joaquin Murrieta, the Chilean Robin Hood who was legendary during the California Gold Rush. He was all of those and more, and the creation of a writer named Johnston McCulley.

He is Don Diego de la Vega, also known as Zorro.

Douglas Fairbanks as Zorro

Don Diego made his first appearance in The Curse of Capistrano, in an All-Story Weekly pulp publication, and has been making history ever since. In 1920, he looked quite a bit like Douglas Fairbanks, who had purchased the rights and made a film called The Mark of Zorro in 1920. It was the first film released through the company formed by Fairbanks, his wife Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith, otherwise known as United Artists. The Mark of Zorro was a silent film, telling the story of Don Diego Vega who had taken the masked identity of Señor Zorro, a champion of the people. I mention this because the film is on Turner Classic Movies tonight. I love Turner Classic Movies. If you’ve never seen it, or any silent movie, watch it and appreciate the amazing melodrama and innovation of the early 20th century.

Zorro and his secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega have appeared in 16 books, more than 40 films, five film serials, 10 television adventure series, at least six radio programs, three serialized comics, a stage production, musical interludes including Alice Cooper’s 1982 song Zorro’s Ascent, and at least six computer and video games.

The swashbuckler gets around.

Antonio Banderas as Zorro

My favorite remains The Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas learning to be Zorro under the tutelage of Don Diego, played by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Banderas’ character, Don Alejandro, gradually assumes the identity of the masked man who wields a mean rapier and does so with wit, panache and a stolen horse named Toronado. And Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Elena. Interestingly, Banderas’ character is supposedly the brother of Joaquin Murrieta, and Banderas himself is from Andalusia. In other words, he was born to play the bandit Zorro.

Don Diego de la Vega’s sole purpose in life is to avenge the helpless and to punish cruel politicians while aiding the oppressed. That he does so with charm and humor is part of the reason it works. That he does so while California was still a Spanish colony and as it was becoming a territory of independent Mexico before finally becoming a state is one of the many reasons that I’ve always been drawn to the story. I love the history, the era and the people. There is something wonderful about both Spain and Mexico. I know it’s popular right now to demonize the latter, something I refuse to engage in, but from one who has traveled often to places south of the border, all I can say is that it’s filled with history, sacrifice, warmth, great traditions and passionate people. That’s the true mark of Zorro.

The Mark of Zorro begins with these words: “Oppression – by its very nature – creates the power that crushes it. A champion arises – a champion of the oppressed – whether it be a Cromwell or someone unrecorded, he will be there. He is born.”

He began in the 19th century, and while the times have changed, he remains true to his mission of helping the people. In this 21st century, we could use a masked man like Don Diego de la Vega.

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live out loud

The importance of whine

by Lorin Michel Thursday, July 21, 2011 10:10 PM

I think of myself as a fairly positive person. After all, Live It Out Loud is about celebrating something every day. For 150 posts, 150 days, I’ve done just that, and it’s usually easy because I have a good life. I have a husband I adore, a dog who’s adorable – both of whom have an uncanny ability to make me laugh – a son who makes me proud, a family that is fairly normal by family standards, and friends who are amazing. I love what I do, I love the written word and I’m lucky enough to be able to write every day and get paid for it. I work out of my home, I work in shorts. I get to wear flip flops every day if I want. I blog.

But sometimes I need a really good whining session. A bitch, to complain, cry, moan, go emo, gripe, annoy, nag, nag, nag. Whining, as annoying as it can be, can also be cathartic. It’s human and real. I like to think it’s even useful. It allows negative emotions to escape from the confines of the body and dissipate into the atmosphere. I’m tired becomes I’m so completely exhausted. I’ve never been this tired in my life. I really hate being this tired. I’m just exhausted. Why am I so tired? And I don’t feel good. My throat hurts. I can’t go to bed and I can’t take a nap; I don’t have time. Waaaaa waaaaaa waaaaaa Can we order take out?

See what I did there? I turned a whine into an excuse not to cook and to get Chinese instead. Therefore whining made my life less complicated.

My husband might not necessarily agree. My whining makes his life more complicated because he has to listen to me. It’s a form of torture called whine boarding according to the urban dictionary. It entails being forced to listen to someone whining incessantly about any give topic. It’s high pitched and cat-like in sound. He has been whine boarded numerous times throughout our relationship. But that’s love and commitment. For better or whine.

The Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology recently conducted a study on the most distracting sound on the planet. Volunteers were asked to try to complete a set of math problems while wearing headphones. In the headphones they heard a variety of sounds: a toddler whining, a baby crying, baby talk, two adults in conversation, a screeching table saw, and silence. Which sound caused the volunteers to complete the fewest problems with the most mistakes? Whining. The researchers – Rosemarie Sokol Chang of SUNY New Paltz, New York and Nicholas S. Thompson of Clark University in Massachusetts – say that further information needs to be gathered to decide whether the particular melody, rhythm and speed of whining is inherently distracting to humans, or if it is a learned response.

According to Ms. Chang, a whine is “telling you to tune in. Nobody wants to sit around and listen to a fire engine siren either, but if you hear the siren go off, it gets your attention.” It’s the same with a whine. It’s saying pay attention to me, I need you to listen to me; help me, I need you. With a really annoying voice or cat-like sound.

I’m not a psychologist but I know enough, intuitively, to know that we need to indulge the whine inside every once in awhile just to know we’re human.

Yeah. That’s why. Really. Waaaaaaa. Waaaaaaa. Waaaaaa.

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